Saturday, July 02, 2005

Relationships Continued, part 2

Fred Frith wrote a piano piece that refuses to let me go; ours is a relationship that continues. I find it charming, really, how "Seven Circles" shuffles its way, again and again, to the top of the "must-program" pile of music near the piano. Our casual introduction in the fall of 2001 was not accompanied by the suggestion of an immediate performance, and so I looked over the piece without urgency, without any grand intention or plan. I liked it. The piano writing is unusually sparse but occasionally motoric, melodic even in its awkward leaps from register to register. Definitely intrigued, but already committed to a recital program at the time, I set it aside. Shuffle, shuffle.

Months later, Fred "remixed" a movement, parsing the piano score into a trio. I performed this version (with flute and guitar) and heard it as a musical mobile: single tones hang in thin air, nothing happens...and then, as if cued from some internal source within the piece, a coincidental attack creates a small ripple of movement. I pursued this aesthetic idea--that a musical terrain might encourage one to listen forward, back, and sideways, rather than "one-way" as directed from measure 1--on my second graduate recital, learning three more movements of "Seven Circles" and programming it with pieces representative of "new musical landscapes." The individual movements of "Seven Circles" vary widely in style, moving from abstraction to a groovy, rhythmic groundedness, and Fred observed, surprised and humored, that I pulled off the former much more successfully than the latter. "You and that last movement," he laughed, "all I can say is, relax! With a little time, I'm sure the two of you will work it out!"

A performer's relationship to the score must start with intrigue and attraction, and it naturally develops through the learning process (you get to know each other), but after that point, any number of paths might be taken. To become constant performance companions? To part ways after a bad review? To defiantly play other repertoire in the name of "artistic growth?" To acknowledge the memory slips and consistently messy fingers and, giving up on intimacy, settling for strained friendship? To grant (shuffle, shuffle) a second chance? I can think of an example to fit almost every scenario, which perhaps explains why I am so compelled to personify my musical scores. With "Seven Circles," each interaction (however many months apart) reveals a new facet of the piece; its surprising quirks and pianistic challenges hint at other mysteries and keep our relationship lively...and continuing. But I hope that "relationship" is more than just superficial talk. Hopefully, the best sort of relationship manifests itself aurally in the richness and depth of performance. A relationship that works causes listeners to pay the highest of complements, recognizing and appreciating publicly what the performer feels as well: "No one plays that piece like you do. You two complement each other, seem to enjoy each other. What a good match."


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